NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: Be on the Lookout for Rabbit Disease

Hunters, hikers and residents are asked to be on the lookout for a deadly rabbit disease that has not been seen in the state’s wild rabbit population but is known to exist in the Southwestern United States. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 is fatal to both wild and domestic rabbits. Signs to look for are dead wild rabbits with no obvious signs of cause of death or those with blood found around their nose, mouths or tails.

  • Our Veterinary Division is working with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor for a deadly rabbit disease that has been found in the Southwestern United States but has not been seen in North Carolina.
  • Biologists with the Wildlife Commission are asking hunters, hikers and residents to be on the lookout for dead rabbits that don’t appear to have an obvious sign of cause of death or ones with blood around their nose, mouth or tail.
  • That could be a sign of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2, a fatal disease for both wild and domestic rabbits.
  • People are asked not to touch the dead wild animal but call the Commission’s Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401.
  • Domestic rabbit owners are asked to contact their veterinarian or the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 919-707-3250.
  • Domestic rabbit owners are also encouraged to follow proper quarantine measures when introducing a new rabbit and avoid contact between domestic rabbits and wild rabbits.
  • Additionally, a health certificate or Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection is required when moving rabbits from other states. Obtaining a health certificate from a veterinarian prior to bringing a rabbit into North Carolina will help protect the domestic rabbit industry.
  • This is a highly contagious disease with death typically occurring within nine days after infection. It can be spread indirectly by humans from their cloths and shoes, but it does not impact human health.
  • The latest outbreak began in March 2020. As of September, there have been confirmed fatalities in seven Western/Southwestern states.
  • There is concern if the disease spreads to the East Coast that it could impact native rabbit populations, particularly the Appalachian cottontail.
  • This species is found only in the Western part of the state at higher elevations, but it is designated a species of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Infected rabbits may develop a fever, be hesitant to eat or may have difficulty breathing or show lack of coordination. Unfortunately, many times the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding.
  • Please keep a watch over your domestic rabbits and please report any dead rabbits with these signs to the Wildlife Commission. Hunters or hikers may want to program the number in their cell phone to have on hand if they come across a dead rabbit.